Frequently asked questions

Self directed support - commonly asked questions

Why does North Lanarkshire Council use self directed support?

A lot of the early work around self directed support has its origins in North Lanarkshire. We are committed to this approach given its potential to enable people to exercise maximum choice and control over their own lives, including control over any support they may require. We have worked towards implementing this model over a number of years, including completing a very successful demonstration project which was independently evaluated. 

Plans to introduce self directed support were underway long before the current financial climate. It was clear from our earliest experience in North Lanarkshire that this is an approach which acknowledges that people themselves are best placed to identify what works to give them a good life.

We identified that traditional approaches to arranging support often struggled to meet the divergent needs and wishes of large numbers of people. This traditional 'care management' approach was criticised as being outdated and in need of reform for a number of reasons:

  • People with disabilities were passive recipients of support
  • There was a lack of transparency about entitlement
  • There was little incentive for family friends to contribute
  • Services often struggled to respond flexibly enough to individual needs
  • Individuals were 'slotted in' to an existing service

Self directed support enables people to have more flexibility, choice and control over their support by allocating an individual budget and encouraging people to be involved in planning their support from the earliest stage.

What actually is 'self directed support'?

Self directed support is an approach which enables people who require ongoing support to be centrally involved in arranging personalised support solutions. This means that people can arrange support in ways that make sense to them to enable them to lead a good life. This approach acknowledges that people have skills and clear ideas about what works for them; not everyone requires an existing service to enable them to overcome difficulties; tailor made solutions are often more effective.

The Scottish Government has defined self directed support as being about improving outcomes for citizens, by providing choice, control and independence, through safe, sustainable and economically viable responses to support planning.

Self directed support involves people being fully involved in their assessment following on from which an indicative amount is identified to use to fund their support. Central to this concept is that people themselves will be as involved as they would like in actually identifying and arranging their support to meet their outcomes. At the heart is the belief that people should be as independent as possible, genuinely part of their community and citizens with both rights and responsibilities.

What is an individual budget?

An individual budget is the specific amount of money that is available to someone to use to arrange their support so that they can achieve the outcomes they have agreed with their social worker. Individual budgets are used to enable people to live independently as full citizens.

How is an individual budget calculated?

Not everyone needs funded support to lead a full life and public money is only accessible in limited circumstances. Social workers work closely with people to identify solutions to difficulties in ways that make sense to them. There are a range of universal services in North Lanarkshire that are open to all citizens and which can support people to achieve their outcomes without recourse to ongoing support.

We have developed a fair and transparent resource allocation system in North Lanarkshire which prescribes a way of allocating available public money both fairly and transparently to enable us to calculate how to distribute available funds to people who are entitled to support.

Where it is identified that someone has ongoing support needs and is entitled to funded support, a Guided Self Assessment (GSA) is undertaken. The GSA form is designed to enable people to think about key areas in their lives and focuses both on things people can do as well as areas where they may need help. As people may need support for a wide range of reasons, the form is designed to work across very different circumstances.

Points are allocated at each section of the form according to the agreed score and each point has a monetary value attached. The total points value results in an indicative budget being identified.

The budget will remain indicative until a support plan which details how the budget will be used to enable the person to meet their outcomes has been agreed. Once agreed, this amount will be form the individual budget. The GSA is completed each year in order to identify an individual budget based on each person's current circumstances.

What is an outcome?

Previously, social workers assessed each person's needs and selected a service to meet those needs. Self directed support requires a more personalised response with people themselves being clear about what they want their lives to look like and what they want support to achieve for them.

An outcome is the result the person wants to achieve for themselves and which their support will help them do. Outcomes are related to each individual's personal preferences and goals and are focused on helping people to develop and increase their own strengths and build on their natural supports, including friends, family and communities.

What if the indicative budget is not enough?

The resource allocation system leads to the identification of an indicative budget. The next stage is to plan support to enable the person to achieve their outcomes. Support arrangements will be different for each individual person and the process of support planning will help identify whether the full indicative budget is required and in some cases why additional funding may need to be considered to manage risk.

What does a support plan look like?

There is no set format which defines an acceptable support plan in North Lanarkshire, but there are clear criteria that need to be covered in any plan;

  • What is important to the person
  • What are their specific, intended outcomes
  • How will they be supported
  • How will they use their individual budget
  • How will their support be managed
  • How will they stay in control
  • Action plan

The plan must also highlight assessed risks and detail how these may be enabled.

People can elect to complete their support plans by themselves, or helped by friends or family. However, social workers and other workers who are paid to support people frequently support this process.

Who actually decides how the money is spent?

Social workers have the responsibility of agreeing that individual support plans will enable people to achieve their outcomes. If it is assessed that the support arrangement detailed in the plan will enable the person to do this, the plan will be agreed. Where there is an intention to spend an individual budget illegally or to use it in such a way that would bring the council into disrepute, the support plan will not be agreed.

Can individual budgets be used for a housework, ironing or gardening service or other services or goods that social work would not traditionally fund?

So long as it is assessed that the identified expenditure will enable the person to achieve their agreed outcomes, the plan will be agreed. The content of each support plan is specific to each person; because a particular service or item is agreed in one person's plan, it does not follow that it would be agreed for someone else. Identified, agreed outcomes are key to this process.

Does self directed support mean that people have to manage their budget and arrange their support by themselves?

People should be as involved as they would like to be. There are a number of ways that an individual budget can be managed.

  • The person can manage the budget themselves
  • They can manage it with support from someone else, for example a family member.
  • If the person is using a service, that organisation could manage the budget on their behalf
  • The budget could remain 'virtual' with the local authority managing the budget for them.
  • The person may decide that they want a combination of the above.

Risk enablement

Self directed support enables people to have more choice and control in their lives. When planning support, there needs to be consideration of whether there are any risks associated with the way the person wants to live their life and consequently, how these risks may be enabled. Areas of risk may relate to the person themselves or to other people or may be in relation to the person being at risk from others.

Most people take risks on a daily basis in going about their day to day lives. There are a range of factors which influence how we make choices and manage the risks presented to us including past experiences as well as knowledge or information gained from a variety of sources. We make decisions each day to either avoid doing something or to go ahead and do it, depending on the risks involved. Some of the risks we take are minor and others are more significant but may ultimately lead to our lives being enriched in some way.

Support plans need to consider any individual risks for the person involved and should outline how these may be enabled or managed. It is likely that there will be times when some people, who are able to, will decide to accept some risk as part of their journey to reaching your goals and achieving their outcomes.

Are self directed support and direct payments the same?

A direct payment is just one way of managing and using an individual budget. A support organisation could manage a budget on someone's behalf or it could remain a virtual budget where the council will administer it on the person's behalf. People are not restricted to using all of their budget in one way; budgets can be used in a combination of ways.

Using direct payments to employ family members

People cannot normally use a direct payment to employ family members. This is because people have very different relationships with an employee than they would a relative. Employing family members may remove or jeopardise important natural supports in people's lives. (The Scottish Government has issued guidelines stating that family members can only be employed in exceptional circumstances, for example, if someone lived in a very rural area.)

Is help available if someone wants to employ a personal assistant?

North Lanarkshire Council provides funding for the Scottish Personal Assistants Employers Network, (SPAEN.) SPAEN support people in North Lanarkshire with the process of employing personal assistants, providing training in relation to being an employer as well as guidance and information in relation to contracts and other legal requirements.

What if people don't want to direct their own support?

Giving people as much control as they would like is at the centre of this approach. If people do not want to be involved in deciding how their support could be arranged, North Lanarkshire Council can still arrange services on their behalf.

The available budget will still be decided fairly and transparently by using the resource allocation system and support will be focused on enabling people to achieve their agreed outcomes.


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